This sermon was delivered to to congregation at Trinity United Methodist Church in Youngstown, Ohio on August 13, 1995.
NEW TESTAMENT LESSON – LUKE 11:1
“He was praying in a certain place and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’.”
We have looked, these past weeks, at the need, the call, and the gift of Jesus. And, this morning we come to consider the growth that we must anticipate and appropriate, as christian disciples. This entire series deals with the word. Christian witness has constantly been stressed. So, as we think of our christian development, we need to think especially of prayer and the gathered fellowship, the body of Christ, the church, Trinity Church!
Had I been any of our lords original disciples, I believe I could have been the one that voiced this royal request, “Teach us to pray!” Prayer is our grandest avenue into the presence of god!
In the entire New Testament this was the only time on record that Jesus was ever asked to teach his disciples how to do something. No one ever requested guidance in preaching or teaching, or help in any Other area of christian ministry. One thing was felt to be extremely needful…Communication with the Creator, Father God.
The pertinent point that we want to make here is the fact that this disciple came to Jesus with his earnest desire. He did not go to the temple, or the synagogue, or to any of the religious guides of the Jewish faith. He presented his sincere wish at the feet of our lord for three reasons.
First, this man came to Jesus because our lord had a time for prayer.
The gospel of mark reveals that Jesus was up long before daybreak. (Mark 1:35) Now I certainly cannot prove that this was Jesus’s habitual period for communion with the father, but I believe it was! And speaking from the experience of many, there is a difference in their days when they begin the day earnestly seeking his presence and guidance! It is their “quiet time” with God.
Ralph Cushman writes in his poem entitled “The Secret”,
I Met God in the morning, when the day was at its best,
And his presence came like sunrise, Like glory in my breast.
All day long the presence lingered
All day long he stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness over a troubled sea.
Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed.
But the winds that seemed to drive them
Brought us a peace and rest.
Then I thought of the other mornings with a keen remorsive mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings with the presence left behind.
So I think I know the secret learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek him in the morning If you want him through the day.
In a small church that Dr. Kline served, many years ago, in southeastern Ohio, it was the custom to have a yearly series of revival meetings. The decision was made to sponsor a twenty-four hour prayer vigil from Saturday evening to Sunday evening, when the revival would officially begin.
There was good response from the congregation and each hour found several people promising to participate . At last every hourly period had been assigned, with the lone exception of one early morning hour. At length, a young banker from Carrolton reluctantly wrote his name down in the final empty space. “I favored the vigil.” he chuckled, “But I did not plan to get up this early.”
That was many years ago and now, as an influential banking executive in Cambridge, Ohio, he still keeps his morning prayer time with the Lord…and he does it every morning! “I found,” he said, “that this was my only quiet time away from phones,and noise, and distractions. I would not miss this hour with Christ for anything.”
The disciples saw in Jesus that which was so like god! And they wanted it! If our lord did not have morning time with his father, he did have some time. Don’t miss your prayer time, morning, noon, evening, night…nothing can replace it!
This disciple came to Jesus because our lord had a place for prayer. He was praying in a certain place. Now, this is not to say that the world cannot be your “Prayer parish.” you can pray anywhere, indeed, everywhere! But it is to plead this morning for a particular locality where you are welcomed into the king’s presence…to have an audience with him.
Remember, Judas not only betrayed our lord, he betrayed Jesus’s place of prayer! No spot, is more sacred, no place is more needed!
Dr. Kline tells us, “I have a place…Sometimes I can come into my home when the day has been difficult and the very place will remind me where Christ has met me in the times past. I’ve gone there with my joy, and he shared it! I’ve gone there with my emptiness and loneliness, and he has filled it! I’ve gone there with my grief, and he has borne it! I’ve gone there with my surrender, and he always blessed it.” if you have a “Praying place” you are blessed.If you don’t have one, think about a place where you and your heavenly father can quietly have a conversation.
There was a farmer who had two sons. His wife, who was a christian, had died, and he was making the effort to guide these young men in the christian way. Each morning, just prior to doing the days chores, the boys noticed that their father disappeared for a time. They wondered about his absence. But, during his life they never learned the secret of where he went or what he did.
One day, months after their father’s death, they were at work in the barn. And, suddenly, one of them discovered a spot in the rear of the barn. He thought the place was completely filled with hay. Then he made another discovery. On a bale in the corner was an open bible and in the front of the bale were two worn places on the ground. Places that had taken a long time to depress! He called to his brother and they stood in reverent silence before the scene of holiness. At length, one of them said, “So that’s where he was and what he was doing!” and the other answered, “I’m just wondering how many of those prayers were said for us.” Then one lad knelt in one of his father’s knee prints and the second boy knelt in the other. They silently prayed together. When they got up, they rose with their father’s god in their hearts.
Do you have a praying place…Will you find one?
There is a third reason for the disciple’s request and it is an urgent one! Jesus had a power in prayer. Here was his great soul strength! “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Although these words are only found in connection with the Gethsemane passion, they were really the faith foundation of his entire life! Listen to his words in similar vain (john 14:9), “He who has seen me, has seen the father.” that is not shallow surrender, that is the deepest dedication!
There is an old story which I am sure most of us can easily identify. A lady passing a Methodist parsonage observed the minister’s son playing in the front yard. “What’s your father doing this morning?” she asked. “Oh,” was the response, “The bishop has offered him a bigger appointment and he is praying about whether or not he should accept.” “That’s interesting,” she answered, “What is your mother doing?” “Packing!” was his immediate reply. All too often that has been the knee-jerk to a flattering appointment by the bishop. “Not thy will, but mine be done!” how often has that hindered the commitment and contribution to the
Cause of Jesus Christ!
But friends, it doesn’t have to be that way! Dr. Kline has a friend in the ministry who is slowly dying of an incurable disease. Not long ago, he ~was visiting him after the man had just returned from seeing his physician. And when Dr. Kline asked if there was any hopeful news, his friend only shook his head. Here was a sincere follower of our lord, not yet forty, a lovely wife, beautiful children, and one who loves to preach! Dr. Kline asked him, “How do you pray about it?” his friend looked at him and fairly beamed, “Larry, there is just one prayer I can pray. Not my will, but thine be done!”
I can think of several other prayers, any one of which he might very well have prayed. Lord, let me recover or I will quit the ministry! Father, let me get well or I will drop out of the church! Lord, heal me or I will have to slow down my efforts in your behalf.
But there was just one prayer this young “Galahad of Gethsemane” could pray. And, oh, the gold it is bringing into the treasure house of the hearts of the people who know him! “Not my will, but thine be done!”
Finally, the “Royal request” … “Teach us to pray!” was presented to Jesus because our Lord had victory in prayer. The one making this request, as well as the other disciples, had seen what god’s power had done in their lord’s life! They knew something of the burden he was bearing, and, when he would return from his “Prayer place.” it was obvious that his prayer pilgrimage had renewed and refreshed him. Some of them had witnessed his arrest. Peter had followed to courtyard of the high priest’s house. John had stood at the foot of the cross. It must have amazed them that there was no hint of frustration or fear! In fact, if one follows closely Jesus trial, agony and death, Jesus seems to be the complete master of the situation!
There is but one reason for this astounding triumph! Our lord harbored no doubt at Calvary because of his dedication in Gethsemane.
And here is the mighty climax of his victorious prayer life! His final words are a prayer: “Father, into thy hands commend my spirit!” now that’s entering the gates with your flags flying and your banners streaming!
His victory makes it possible for us to be victorious! He said in john 16:33, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!”
A few Easters back, a youth group was sharing in a devotional experience. The topic was, “What Easter means.” each one in the group was asked what Easter meant to them. A young boy responded with a profoundly memorable answer. He said, “Easter means when he came alive, we come alive too!”
Yes, we do come live through prayer. Thank god!
A closing prayer…
Father God, we come to you in prayer this morning seeking answers to our perplexing problems. We all pray in our owqn way, Father, but we know you hear us and will answer. Father , give us the grace and patience to be still. To wait upon you for your guidance and comfort. let our prayers be the opportunity to establish two-way communication with you and hear your answers more clearly.
In Jesus name we pray.